When it comes to data security incidents, every second counts. The longer a threat goes unaddressed, the greater the damage it can do.
The key is proactivity: Unless you have processes in place ahead of time, your IT team may find itself scrambling. In the midst of a data breach is no time to learn just how quickly your team can respond.
What can you do to speed up your security response? These five tips apply to startups, established enterprises, and every company in between:
- Build a culture of security.
Culture matters when it comes to cybersecurity. Every member of the team must be aware of, able to identify, and prepared to mitigate potential threats.
Without that kind of culture, employees might be afraid or ashamed to point out a breach out of fears that they’ll be blamed for it. A culture of security recognizes that the most dangerous type of threat is an unreported one.
To build a security-oriented culture:
- Brief team members on types of threats.
What does a phishing email look like? What signs indicate it might be a DDoS attack rather than a server hiccup? Which employees should be accessing which types of data?
Remember, not all employees are tech types. Start with the basics, and provide plenty of time for questions.
- Talk through specific risks.
Different types of companies face different types of risks. Healthcare companies may be more vulnerable to phishing attempts, given how valuable patient records are online. Man-in-the-middle attacks may be a particular issue on teams whose members often use public Wi-Fi networks.
- Implement incentives for incident reporting.
It’s not enough to promise you won’t punish employees who bring potential threats to your attention. Offer small rewards, even if the incident turns out to be a false alarm. Perhaps team members who tell you about a credible threat receive a $25 gift card — enough to say “thank you,” but not enough to encourage false reporting.
- Make testing frequent and fun
How can you know how successful your team members are at identifying potential threats? With regular testing.
Most data breaches are the result of human error. On occasion, send an email with a fake phishing link. Report to the team how many individuals clicked it, and review the potential consequences of compromised company data.
- Put together a response plan.
Your team needs to know not just how to identify threats, but what happens after a potential threat is reported. Put together a plan that details who’s responsible for which response activities.
Remember, the response will differ depending on the type of threat. For a DDoS attack, for instance, someone should immediately shut down the router and contact their server host. Those steps won’t have any effect against a phishing scheme, though.
Treat the response plan as a living document. Put a quarterly meeting on the calendar to review and update it. Perhaps responsibilities should be re-delegated if the IT team has grown. Maybe a vulnerability assessment showed new holes in the company’s software.
- Know your infrastructure.
One of the few advantages you have over cybercriminals is knowledge of your company’s infrastructure. Make sure your response plan reflects that.
Protecting your infrastructure is a lot like protecting a castle. If you have a map of the area with highlighted weaknesses, you have a better idea of where attacks are more likely to occur and can prepare accordingly.
For instance, insecure APIs are a common source of breaches. If your company’s software has all sorts of integrations, make sure you can quickly shut them down. That can prevent an isolated threat from becoming systemic.
- Set up an automated defense.
However good your incident response team might be, they can’t stop every threat at the door. And even once they spot one, they need time to triage and respond.
If you use a security information and event management (SIEM) system, you might feel like you can respond quickly enough. Remember, though, that software applications operate in milliseconds rather than minutes. Adding SOAR security to your SIEM system can prevent threats from getting a foothold in the first place.
- Make data security a c-suite priority.
At many companies, data security is just another function of the IT or operations team. The trouble with that is, executives are the ones who make strategic investment choices. And if cybersecurity isn’t a leadership priority, it also doesn’t get attention on the ground floor.
States like New York actually require certain companies to have a chief information security officer. Don’t wait for the law to require you to make data security a leadership priority. The financial and brand-related risks of data breaches significantly exceed the costs of hiring a CISO. If salary costs are an issue, you could also consider an outsourced CISO arrangement.
In the world of data security, prevention is key. If a breach does occur, you need technology and a prepared team on your side. Anything less, and you’ll waste time you simply don’t have.